Marx and the Postmodernism Debates: An Agenda for Critical Theory

By Lorraine Y. Landry | Go to book overview
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against criticisms of his views of Enlightenment rationality and modernity while (1) accepting the criticisms to the detriment of Marx's views, (2) attempting to exempt Marx's views from the criticisms, or (3) defending a combination of these responses.

The difficulty with employing this method, especially clear in the discussion of the postmodernism debates, is that its rationalist form risks being biased from the outset against counter-Enlightenment critics. Rather than incur this risk, the book instead takes the form of interpretive commentaries on the postmodernism debates. Guided by my initial hypothesis and strategy, I develop an approach to the debates that argues that whatever theoretical vitality and political relevance they exhibit is due, at least in part, to the positive connections that can be constructed between views of the parties to the debates and Marx's critical theory. Namely, I emphasize their affiliations with the project of social change, which underpins criticisms of Enlightenment rationality and modernity.

It is important to emphasize that "the roar and confusion of the battles over postmodernism"3 threaten to lend mistaken credence to the eclipse of Marx's relevance for contemporary politics, especially in light of the collapse of officially Communist states. My interpretation of the postmodernism debates illustrates that the debates are theoretically and politically debilitated insofar as they obscure such relevance. Habermasian and poststructuralist criticisms may prove to be strategically important as aesthetic and/or normative motivation to act in specific contexts of oppositional practice. However, given their contemporary perspectives on and commitment to critical-practical activity, Marx can provide valuable tools for the postmodernism debates.

David Rasmussen, Reading Habermas ( Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1990), p. 113.
Stephen White, Political Theory and Postmodernism ( Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 12.


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